Ireland's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup are hanging by the flimsiest of threads after an astonishing display of hitting by all-rounder Michael Leask took Scotland to a one-wicket victory off the last ball of a thriller in Bulawayo.

Curtis Campher had rescued Ireland from the worst possible start with his second international century, George Dockrell chipped in with 69 and a total of 286-8 looked adequate as Scotland lost wickets at regular intervals.

George Dockrell scored 69 in a 135 partnership with Curtis Campher (ICC/Getty Images)

When the eighth fell with 53 runs required from five overs, the Boys in Green were short odds to record a bounce back win after Monday’s loss to Oman - but Leask had other ideas and smashed 22 from Josh Little’s penultimate over.

With eight needed from the final set of six, a fumble on the long on boundary gave Leask a four off the first ball but a single then exposed Safyaan Sharif and Ireland’s hopes were raised when Mark Adair had the No 10 caught at short third.

A dot followed and Leask had to risk running a bye to the wicketkeeper to get back on strike for the final delivery which he fortuitously nicked to the fine leg boundary to finish 91 not out, 44 of them coming from the last 17 balls he faced.

“The first 10 overs when we were batting, and the last 10 overs when we were bowling took the game away from us,” skipper Andy Balbirnie said. 

“We'll lick our wounds here and go again next game. The plans were pretty clear and I can’t be too critical of the bowlers. It’s an uphill battle from here but I back our guys to be up to the mark.”

Uphill is an understatement with Ireland needing to beat both tournament favourites Sri Lanka on Sunday, and the UAE in their final game, to have any chance of reaching the Super Six and hence the World Cup proper in India later this year.

Put into bat, the Boys in Green lost their two most experienced batters for golden ducks in the first over - Paul Stirling caught at slip and Andy Balbirnie pinned in front.

Harry Tector and Lorcan Tucker also failed to reach double figures and when opener Andy McBrine was caught behind for 32, Ireland had lost half their wickets for 70 and were in need of a major repair job. 

Campher and Dockrell provided just that by adding 136 in 25 overs, a partnership every bit as important as their unbeaten 119 that defeated Scotland in the first round of the T20 World Cup in Hobart last October.

Veteran Dockrell notched a second successive half-century, clearing the ropes once, and hitting four fours, before he was yorked by South African-born Brandon McMullen, who returned figures of 5-34.

Campher impressively upped the tempo in the final overs reaching his century off 99 balls, and had four maximums and nine fours, when he was bowled for 120 by the penultimate delivery.

Dockrell followed up with two wickets from seven tidy overs, and Campher 1-39 from eight - neither deserved to be on the losing side.